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Arid Tucson leads the way in water conservation out West

Al Jazeera


TUCSON, Ariz. — Schoolteacher Terry Anderson took a break in the shade of a mesquite tree in her front yard as a team of volunteers from a local nonprofit put the finishing touches on a morning's work to help her capture water from the desert monsoon rains.

Together they dug basins and built up berms around the mesquite in a bid to capture about 1,000 gallons of rainwater. Behind the house, meanwhile, work was underway to fit a cistern to harvest 865 gallons from the roof to irrigate more shade trees in her parched backyard.

“There's a lot of water that comes off my roof, and in this Sonoran desert, it's pretty precious,” she said, looking out over the yard newly planted with native desert willow, Baja fairy duster and bird of paradise varieties. “Why have it run down the street instead of using it to put in a few more trees?”

Anderson is among a growing number of residents across Tucson joining a drive to conserve water that may hold valuable lessons for other cities across the drought-racked U.S. West. (...)

Among partners assisting Tucsonans toward a more sustainable use of water is the Watershed Management Group, a local nonprofit that showcases grey water and rainwater harvesting systems, composting toilets and what it calls a desert food forest at its Living Lab and Learning Center in the midtown area. Staffers offer classes for residents applying for rebates, which they said are fully booked because of strong demand.

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